Kristie Leong M.D. is a family practitioner who believes in the power of nutrition and a healthy lifestyle to prevent and fight illness.
Why are cashews so expensive? There is no denying that cashews are a delectable snack and a wonderful addition to recipes such as stir-fry. Yet they can also eat up a considerable portion of your grocery budget.
Have you ever wondered why the snackable cashew nut comes with such a high price at the supermarket?
While cashews aren’t the costliest tree nut on the market, they’re more expensive than many other popular nuts, such as almonds. For example, it’s not unusual to pay $9 per pound for cashew nuts.
The cost of cashews might raise a few eyebrows, but they’re a bargain next to macadamia nuts that cost around $25 a pound! Let’s look at some reasons cashews cost so much at the grocery store.
Cultivating Cashews Is Expensive
One reason cashews are so expensive has to do with how they’re grown and harvested.
Limited Growing Regions
The cashew tree only grows in very specific conditions: tropical climates with warm temperatures and enough rain to allow the roots of the tree to survive.
Regions where this tree thrives include Brazil, India, Africa, and Vietnam. For a cashew tree to grow, the soil must be sandy, which not all areas of the world have. The limited places these trees can grow reduces the available supply, making those that are available more expensive due to supply and demand.
Long Lag Between Planting and Harvesting
There’s also a long lag period between planting cashew trees and harvesting the nuts. It can take up to eight years after planting a cashew tree for it to yield edible nuts.
The lag period between planting and harvesting reduces the widespread availability of these nuts. However, there are now dwarf cashew trees that have a higher yield and begin producing edible nuts after only three years.
Processing Requires Extra Labor
What about processing? Harvesting cashew nuts is only the first step in getting them ready for sale. It is not safe to eat the outer skin of cashews, so workers must remove it.
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This lengthens the processing time, and the extra labor is factored into the price. Plus, manufacturers must roast cashews to increase their shelf life and help them withstand shipping and long-term storage.
Roasting is also necessary to remove urushiol, a toxic chemical in cashews and their outer skins that humans shouldn’t consume. Even when you buy raw cashews, those crunchy nuts have been roasted at least one time to remove urushiol. Dry roasted cashews undergo two cycles of roasting.
There's a High Demand for Cashews, Too
Demand is another factor that figures into the price of cashews. Since cashews are the fourth most popular tree nut, there is a high demand for them.
Plus, manufacturers use them in products that people buy regularly, such as ice cream and chocolate bars. Who doesn’t love cashew ice cream?
Cashew butter is also popular. Not surprisingly, cashew butter costs significantly more than peanut butter and is harder to find in grocery stores and the higher demand increases the price.
The Bottom Line
Why are cashews expensive? It’s easy to understand why you pay more for cashews at the supermarket. The availability of cashews is less than some other types of tree nuts, since they only grow in a certain type of soil.
Plus, it takes a while to yield nuts, and the nuts undergo extensive processing to remove urushiol and make them edible. The low supply of available cashews also increases the price. So, if you catch a bargain on cashews at the supermarket, you may want to buy several packs!
Nuts are a delicious and healthy snack that’s easier on your blood sugar (unlike potato chips) and are linked with health benefits, including a lower risk of cardiovascular disease. As Harvard Health points out, snacking on cashews can lower LDL cholesterol (the kind linked with cardiovascular disease) by 5% (based on a study).
You can buy raw cashews, roasted cashews, and even flavored cashews at many supermarkets and natural food stores. People often describe their flavor as smooth and buttery and who doesn’t enjoy their delightful crunch? Now that you know how they’re processed and why they’re expensive, you can appreciate this popular tree nut even more!
- "Cashew Processing | Cashews." https://www.cashews.org/fr/cashew-processing.
- Mah E, Schulz JA, Kaden VN, Lawless AL, Rotor J, Mantilla LB, Liska DJ. Cashew consumption reduces total and LDL cholesterol: a randomized, crossover, controlled-feeding trial. Am J Clin Nutr. 2017 May;105(5):1070-1078. doi: 10.3945/ajcn.116.150037. Epub 2017 Mar 29. PMID: 28356271.
- "Cashew Study - USDA." https://www.ars.usda.gov/ARSUserFiles/80400510/Completed%20Studies%20Summaries/Cashew%20Study.pdf.
- "Cashews: A better choice than low-fat chips? - Harvard Health." 01 Jun. 2017, https://www.health.harvard.edu/heart-health/cashews-a-better-choice-than-low-fat-chips.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.